Category Archives: Community Support

Community Support

“It’s not The Planet of the Apes—it’s The Planet of the Arthropods.”

 

Who are the most successful beings on Earth? It certainly isn’t Man, Ape or any other mammal. The most successful animals on the planet are the arthropods. They have conquered land, sea and air, and make up over three-fourths of all currently known living and fossil organisms. They are the true masters of the Earth!

Various Arthropods Wikipedia Commons
Various Arthropods Wikipedia Commons

The Phylum Arthropoda got its name from the Greek, arthros (jointed) and poda (foot) and encompasses over 800,000 species, including arachnids (spiders), crustaceans (sea creatures) and insects.  Also, members of this gigantic phylum are Myriapods; centipedes, millipedes, sea spiders, and maybe a host of other organisms yet unidentified.

What do all of these creepy, crawly and flighty creatures have in common?  They are all invertebrate (without a backbone), have symmetrical, segmented bodies, jointed legs, exterior skeletons, a ventral (front) nervous system, highly developed sensory organs and they are cold blooded.

Arthropods have a leg up on all other organsms. They do everything with legs or modified legs. They swim, crawl, jump, and fly, they use legs to sense with (their antennae), to bite and sting with and to chew with (they even chew sideways).  All this and more, is done with legs.

So, with segmented bodies that accommodate environmental changes, with legs that let them walk; with hard, waterproof shells that keep water in or out; and with highly adaptable respiratory systems, arthropods have dominated the animal world.

Arthropods occur in virtually every earthly habitat, from the cold ocean depths to the hottest deserts. They can live through extremes that would kill most vertebrates.

Fun Facts about Arthropods:

  • Arthropods crawled onto land about 100 million years before vertebrates did. It’s thought that colonizing land was easier for them for several reasons – including the fact that they had already evolved legs, which they used for walking on the bottom of the sea.
  • About 80% of all animal species are arthropods!butterfly-emerging-from-cocoon-1518060_640
  • All arthropods undergo metamorphosis – a process where their bodies change radically as they pass from their larval to adult stages. Butterflies are the best-known for entering cocoons as caterpillars and coming out quite different, but all arthropods do something similar!
  • When arthropods outgrow their old exoskeleton, they molt – leaving behind their former skin and growing a new one. All arthropods do this at least once in their lives.
  • Crustaceans and arachnids – two types of arthropods – have blue blood instead of red blood! Their blood uses a blue copper compound to carry oxygen, instead of the red iron compound used by most other animals.
  • An Arthropods’ hard exoskeleton is made of chitin – which is made of a sugar glucose compound! It’s not sweet but it sure is hard!

If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos. (E. O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life)

Christmas Crashers

There’s nothing like the smell of an evergreen tree and a cozy wood fire, to get you in the holiday spirit. But when you bring a live or cut Christmas tree indoors, along with the necessary firewood, some of the insects tspider-found-in-holiday-decorationshat have called your Christmas tree and yule log, home, might be joining you for the holiday season.

Aphids, bark beetles, bark lice, spiders and, even termites may be homesteading your Christmas tree.   Most of the Christmas trees you pick up from a lot or other

commercial settings are utree_farm_christ_trees_12-8-12_8298288388sually inspected and cleaned. The emphasis here is on usually. The greatest threat of home invasion comes to those who cut down their own trees.

It is a known fact that as soon as a tree is cut from its trunk and brought into someone’s warm home, most hitchhiking critters die from starvation or desiccation (lack of water).termites-eating-wood-and-swarmers It’s also a known fact that some may begin to wander from the tree, or firewood pilewood-pile, in search of food and water sources and if these are found they may start to set up housekeeping.

Don’t be afraid to purchase a real tree because of the possibility of tiny pests. And don’t forego the warmth and cozy atmosphere of a wood fire either. Control methods are relatively simple and low maintenance. And remember, artificial trees can house pests, too.

It’s Rodent “Beware-ness” week: “Batten Down the Hatches”!

Fall is a time of change.  The weather is cooling, leaves are falling, plants and animals are going into overwintering mode and for animals this means heading out of the landscape for safer, warmer places, like inside your home, inside your car or inside your BBQ (not to mention inside pool equipment cabinets).

 

The most frequent unwanted visitors, this time of year, are Mice and Rats.mice-on-cornRat yelling

 

Besides being disgusting, noisy and destructive, rats and mice can contaminate food, spread diseases, bring on allergies and even invite their friends; fleas, ticks and lice into your home.  Rats, especially, have been known to greatly damage property by chewing through drywall, insulation, and electrical wiring (including vehicle wiring).  If you park your car outside, don’t forget to check under the hood frequently.

Prevent rats and mice from making your house their home by:

  • Removing yard debris and trash. Always look for places you think rats might like to live such as wood piles and thick ground covers. Take time to thin out the vegetation and move firewood away from the home. Frequently restacking the wood will also discourage rodents from the area.
  • Keeping trash cans tightly closed. rat-in-trach
  • Storing pet food or bird seed in metal cans with secure lids.
  • Picking up fallen fruit. (Don’t feed the rats!)
  • Bringing in pet bowls and bird feeders at night when rodents are the most active.
  • Keeping your home in good repair. Check for openings where rodents can get in. Remember that a mouse can squeeze through a hole as rat_pipesmall as a dime, and rats can enter through quarter-sized holes. Covering the openings with metal, concrete or mesh wool or copper mesh wool will stop them from getting in.

Rats and mice are sneaky, determined  creatures, so if they’ve gotten past your best defensive line, it’s time to call in the professionals.  

Fun Fact:

Rats and mice have a need to gnaw. rat-at-dentist-1_k2puy3y6fb6ohq-5csefw

They’re not looking to add wiring or building materials to their diet, they are doing what they need to do to promote good dental health.  Yes, rats gnaw to take care of their teeth.  Their front teeth constantly grow and without gnawing and chewing to reduce the size of their choppers, the teeth would grow right out of their mouths until they would be unable to eat therefore starving to death or the bottom incisors would poke through the roof of the mouth stabbing into the brain. Not a good way to go.

Argentine Ants and Chemical Warfare

In their quest for world domination, Argentine ants have successfully conquered 6 continents and many islands.  How did they do this?  Easily, their multi-queen colonies, adaptive abilities (conquering changes in their environment) and their nomadic lifestyles), have made them “hard to kill”.

1st-american-ant-colony

The first Argentine ants disembarked, in New Orleans, from ships carrying coffee from Brazil. Originating along the banks of the South American, Parana River, in a tropical ecosystem, Argentine ants have become a major nuisance in the southwestern United States including California.  They are now thriving in urban areas where non-native landscape and plenty of irrigation fosters beautiful tropical environments.  As an invading species they are a natural and economic threat to native ants by aggressively competing for life sustaining resources and pollinators by protecting plant pests such as aphids and scales that provide them with a food source, honeydew, while the makers of their food source destroy landscape plantings and crops.

By Penarc {http://en.wikipedia.org)
By Penarc {http://en.wikipedia.org)

Being extremely aggressive, these ants out compete native species for food and other resources by employing “Chemical Warfare”.  During battle, Argentine ants produce secretions that serve them in two ways, first they irritate and incapacitate their foe and second, this same secretion attracts other Argentine ants to the war zone where they aggressively join the battle.

Photo: Choe Laboratory, UC Riverside
Photo: Choe Laboratory, UC Riverside

A single colony may contain 10,000 female workers, and there may be hundreds of colonies around your home; the total number of ants could easily reach a million. Although they cannot sting, they can and do bite.

Native ant colonies, for the most part, are extremely territorial and will fight other colonies of the same species. Argentine ants in the United States are all closely related with very similar DNA, since originating from the first colonizers in Louisiana. They seem to accept ants from different colonies as members of their global family. It has even been observed that, Argentine ants from different colonies will “join forces” and attack together in huge swarms. To Argentine ants, victory is simply a numbers game and they don’t care if the enemy is Goliath and they’re David.

In their case, size doesn’t matter. It’s not the size of the ant in the fight it’s the size of the fight in the ant and maybe who has the best weapons.

fighting-ants

If you suspect you have an argentine ant invasion or any ant invasion, here is a link to our ant control experts.

They’re Out for Blood!

mosquito-swarm-red-dawnA new “Red Dawn” is here. Invaders from all over the globe are taking over our neighborhoods and these guys and gals “Bite” and “Suck Your Blood”.  The newest of the bunch is the aedes-noto-2Aedes notoscriptus, the Australian Backyard Mosquito.  Joining the other two invasive, non-native, Aedes Mosquito species (aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus) this hungry mosquito is plaguing Southern California and together with its’ companions is bringing the risk of disease (Zika virus, dengue fever, yellow fever, chikungunya and in dogs, heartworm).

The Aeaedes-albopictus-1des albopictus (the Asian tiger mosquito) arrived in California in 2011 and the Aedes aegypti (the yellow fever mosquito), in 2014. The newest arrival, Aedes notoscriptus has been aedes-egyeptiidentified here since early 2017 and its’ populations are increasing exponentially, (that means really fast) due to the hot humid weather we have been experiencing.

Back yard breeders and daytime feeders.

Females of this dark colored mosquito, with outstanding lighter markings, banded legs, and a white band across the proboscis, bite humans chiefly by day in shaded areas. These mosquitoes don’t fly very far, so much of their spread has been helped by the transport of their eggs in everything from flower pots and old tires to trains, planes and automobiles. They are known to prefer breeding in container environments.

Being extremely tiny and aggressive, people never see what’s biting them, leading to misidentification of the attacks as coming from spiders, bed bugs, sand flies or fleas.

Their bites, often concentrated on ankles and legs below the knees, look like clustered pinpricks. They quickly become red and inflamed and grow into big red welts and rashes with scratching.  These bites seem to be extra itchy and that can be because our immune systems haven’t gotten used to them yet.

According to vector control officials, these three species, lay eggs on the sides of barrels (and other containers), not just in standing water, so even though you dump out the water, they can remain alive (and in wait) in people’s yards for years.

Keep safe from mosquitoes by following a few rules.

 In your yard and around your house:

  • Decrease watering schedules                        yard work
  • Remove standing water
  • Limit outdoor activities when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Cut back (prune) dense foliage
  • Mow tall grasses
  • Fix broken screens
  • Move outdoor lighting away from windows and doorways
  • Burn citronella candles or torches on or around the patio or other outdoor areas where activities are being performed.

When you don’t have the time or the inclination to implement the needed procedures to safeguard your landscape plants and gardens from mosquitoes, considegetting help from a professional pest control company and have them, do the work for you.

When you are outdoors: mosquito repellant spray

  • Limit outdoor activities when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear protective clothing (long-sleeved shirt and pants).
  • Use a proven effective mosquito repellent (products containing Deet or oil of lemon and eucalyptus)

For more information on these Southern California Invaders check out the link below.

Meet the new daytime mosquito spreading misery in California

Why Do Mosquitoes Love You? They think you’re HOT!

The two most dominant factors of mosquito attraction have to do with sight and smell, so there’s no brushing these guys (oops! Girls) off when they’re out looking for a quickie in the moonlight.

Here are four reasons a  Mosquito may pick you for the love of their life.

Your Fresh Breath

Woman Summer Dandelions Freedom Blowing Wind

Mosquitoes don’t bite randomly. Instead, they find a victim by following their steady output of carbon dioxide.  Researchers say that mosquitoes are adept at figuring out where their target is by following trails of exhaled carbon dioxide.

Unfortunately, there is no way to cut down on your carbon dioxide emissions besides holding your breath. So, if you are being bitten you might want to head indoors.

Your Hot Body

While carbon dioxide is how mosquitoes lock onto you as a target, heat may be how they figure out the best place to bite you.

Dr. Jonathan Day, a professor of medical entomology at the University of Florida, tells us that before mosquitoes can take a bite they have to find an area of the body where the blood is closest to the surface. Common areas include the forehead, wrists, elbows, neck and ankles.woman-sweating

With the ever-increasing number of people keeping fit by exercising out of doors, mosquitoes are having an easier time finding what they love most, blood. Those who are over heated or who have just finished working out will have blood closer to the surface of the skin throughout their body. Faster respirations and an increase in carbon dioxide output identifies “Prime Targets” for love starved mosquitoes.

Exercising outdoors at dawn or dusk (prime time for mosquitoes) also ups the risk for more love bites.

Although a few small studies have speculated that mosquitoes were after specific blood types, the CDC says that’s false. By the time the mosquito bites you, they’ve picked you as their target.

Your Cool Outfit

Black may be the best color for a fashion statement and it’s great for hiding body flaws but it’s the worst for hiding from mosquitoes.

If you’re heading to an outdoor event and looking to avoid becoming a mosquito’s meal, avoid anything in dark denim or all-black outfits because some mosquitoes are visual hunters that search you out by looking for signs of life against the horizon. If you dress in dark colors, you stand out against the horizon and mosquitoes can see you.

Your Party Spirit

Human Festival Celebrate PartyWhen you drink alcohol, your blood vessels dilate, increasing blood flow to the surface of your body. You may feel a flushed, warm feeling.  This increased blood flow makes it easier for a lovesick mosquito, to target you.

 Picture by Dan Prado
Picture by Dan Prado

Movement can also draw these biting insects in, so gyrating party dancers and avid hikers on the move should wear plenty of bug-repellent.

Fact:

mosquito-no-more-deetEven though DEET has been the recommended repellent of choice, there are still those who look for a more natural solution to stop mosquitos from biting.  According to the CDC, lemon eucalyptus oil could be a much safer and more natural solution.  The CDC confirmed that lemon eucalyptus oil can be as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes.

 

Need more information on mosquitoes and how to keep them from ruining your day?

Follow this link to Corky’s Pest Control. https://www.corkyspest.com/mosquitoes.html

TARANTULAS ARE LOOKING FOR LOVE EARLY IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Male tarantulas have been spotted, early this season, marching in mass for mates.  This annual march to find love, usually starts around September or October, but rangers in our state parks believe that the weather has male tarantulas starting their searches earlier this year. follow-the-spiders-2

Despite their fierce reputation and scary demeanor, the 29 species of tarantula that are native to the United States are mostly harmless. These spiders have large fangs and a bite will probably hurt, but their venom, which is relatively mild, rarely causes a reaction in humans.  It would be more likely that an allergic reaction occurs from coming into contact with the “urticating” hairs” that these spiders kick at predators and prey. These hairs can get into the nose and eyes and cause a lot of discomfort.

Tarantulas are slow and deliberate movers but accomplished nighttime predators. Insects are their main prey, but they also go after larger game, including frogs, toads, and mice. They are mostly burrow dwellers and do not use webs to capture prey, but they do spin a trip wire to alert them when something nears their burrow.

These spiders grab with their long, strong legs, inject paralyzing venom, then kill their unlucky prey with their fangs. They then secrete digestive enzymes to liquefy their victims’ bodies so that they can suck them up, like a milk shake, through their straw-like mouth openings. After a large meal, the tarantula may not need to eat for a month.

tarantulas_meetA male, encountering the silk surrounding the entrance to a female’s burrow, calls and dances suggestively. He may be rejected or selected, and after mating he may  even be eaten, becoming a ready-made source of protein to jump start the development of the next generation.

wasp dragging envenomed tarantula
wasp dragging envenomed tarantula

Although spiders are world class predators, they are often themselves eaten. Tarantulas have lots of natural enemies, including lizards, snakes, birds, and even wasps. A female tarantula hawk (a large wasp) can locate a tarantula, sting it, and then drag its paralyzed body into a previously prepared burrow. Inside the burrow, she lays a single egg on the body of the living spider. When the larva hatches, it eats the tarantula!
tarantula-bobSan Diego County has two species that call it home – The California Black or Ebony (Aphonopelma eutylenum) and the San Diego Bronze (Aphonopelma reversum or steindachneri).  Both have bodies about 2 inches in length and neither are aggressive.

If you look up the meaning of Tarantula, you’ll find that it doesn’t mean, monster with eight legs or giant killing machine.  It means, “Big Hairy Spider”.  That is exactly what they are.

Fun Fact:

The name Tarantula apparently originated in the 14th century, in the Italian city of Ttarantella_napoletana_1870aranto, where people felt compelled to dance the sweaty, wildly gyrting  “Tarantella, when bitten by a spider. They believed to do this dance was the only way to cure themselves of the deadly effects of the bite.

Giant Rats: From Nasty Vermin to Super Heros

 

Giant RatScary Rats:  Giant rats are no longer just figments of the imagination.  Now, it seems, these once mythical rodents are in fact real, and they’re absolutely, ginormous. That’s really, really big!

A rat, which was called “Vika” by locals on Vangunu (one of the many islands making up the group known as the Solomon Islands) solomon-islandswas for decades the stuff of legend. It wasn’t until a logging company (in 2015) accidentally flushed one from hiding, while clearing trees, that the Vika stories changed from fiction to fact. Then in 2017, researchers were able to hunt one of the rats down and through DNA testing found that this huge rodent, was a brand new species.

Now known as Uromys vika  , this rat has orangish brown fur, measures a foot anvika-ratd a half long and weighs more than 2 pounds. To put that in perspective, the average rat in the US., tops out at about 8 ounces with a body 7-11 inches long and tail another 7-9 inches. This new rodent, thought to be strictly herbivorous (plant eating), feasts mainly on nuts whose shells are thicker than that of a coconut. The animal’s massive teeth easily gnaw through the outer layer of the nut to make a meal of its tasty insides.

Another Giant Rat species, the Bosavi woolly rat is one of

From Wikipedia

the largest rats, according to the Smithsonian Institution. A Smithsonian biologist discovered this new species of giant rat in 2009 in the crater of Mount Bosavi, an extinct volcano in Papua New Guinea. It weighed close to 3.5 lbs. and measured 32 inches long, including the tail. This gigantic rat has a thick silver-gray coat and was not unafraid of humans. According to researchers, this species may only live inside this volcano.

The African or Gambian pouched rat,  Cricetomys gambianus, (is also on the exremely large side. It weighs between 2 to 3 pounds and grows to around 3 feet long (including its’ tail).  In its native Africa, the pouchedgambian-rat-standing rat lives in colonies of up to twenty, usually in forests and scrub areas, but also very often around termite mounds. It is omnivorous, preferring palm fruits and palm kernels while also feeding on vegetables, insects, crabs, and snails.  It is not a true rat but is part of an African branch omuroid rodents. It derives its name from the pouches inside its mouth (in the cheeks) that are used to store extra food.

For all it’s scary and perceived nastiness this rat rates right up there master-splinter-action-figurewith the famous “Master Splinter” of Ninja Turtle fame for his save the world attitude.  Known universally as the Hero Rat” for its work as a trained landmine detector and in the medical field for its ablity to detect, sniff out tuberculeosis ,. A single Hero rat can clear 200 square feet of landmine infested g round in an hour (done manually, the same area would take 50 hours to clear). A TB-detection rat can evaluate 50 samples in eight minutes (almost a day’s work for a lab technician).

Since 2000, these rats have cleared mine fields in Tanzania, and detected 6,693 land mines, 26,934 small arms and ammunitions, and 1,087 bombs across hundreds of miles in Mozambique. They’re also hard at work in Thailand, Angola, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

Since 2002, trained tuberculosis-detecting rats have bFrom Wikimedia Commonseen used in 19 TB clinics in the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam. They’ve successfully screened 226,931 samples and identified 5,594 TB patients. Get more info on these amazing Heros and the innovative research company (Ngo Apopo) that trains and provides their services at https://www.apopo.org/en/ You can even adopt a rat!

Being intelligent, playful and  very affectionate, they are sometimes kept as exotic pets.  Unfortunately, when a group of Gambian pouched rats escaped frorat-as-pet-1914404_960_720m a breeder in Florida and colonized an island called Grassy Key, they  become an invasive species. In addition, in 2003 they played a role in an outbreak of monkeypox in the United States. They are now a restricted animal and can only be imported for scientific research, exhibition, or educational purposes with a valid permit issued by the CDC.

Featured Picture: Giant Gambian Pouched Rat finds a landmine (photo by Xavier Rossi).

Other pictures: From Wikimedia Commons

 

Assassin Bugs: The “Kiss” of Death.

It’s getting close to Halloween and it’s time to think about scary, creepy and ghoulish things .  The “Assassin Bug” fits the bill .  It’s name stirs up  scary thoughts and its persona is ghoulish.  Here’s why it’s the perfect Halloween bad bug:

assassin-bug-carrying-corpsesThis insect stabs its prey and sucks it dry, then attaches the corpse to its back. Not just one or two at a time, these bugs can carry around huge piles of their enemies (or fast food containers). Although, weighty and really very ghoulish, this behavior acts as a visual and olfactory camouflage as well as providing highly effective body armor.

 

Brings to mind the Brain Bug from Starship Troopers drinking a guy’s brains.  Yuck!!

There are about 7,000 species of assassin bugs in the kissing-bug-rhodnius_prolixus70-300world and while they can deliver a painful bite, assassin bugs are usually no threat to mankind. Then there’s the exception: the blood-sucking kissing bugs, aptly named because they bite humans painlessly on the face and around the mouth while they sleep.  (They are attracted to the carbon dioxide exhaled while breathing.) Problems occur when they defecate in the process, leaving protozoans from their feces in the wound, leading to chronic heart, digestive and neurological problems. Chagas disease, is a serious problem in South America, and infections may be on the upswing in the United States. 

freeze-frame-of-pest-news-minuteFor  more information on Chagas disease and other important pest topics watch the Corky’s Pest Control’s  “Pest News Minute”.

 

Just a couple of examples of these creepy creatures.

Wheel Bug   assassin-bug-wheel-bug-eating

 

assassin-bug-spiney-red

 

Spiney Assassin Bug

 

 

 

war-bug-star-ship-troopers

 

War Bug from Starship Troopers

Scarey but not as scary as the real ASSASSINS.

 

Kissing Bug picture: By Dr. Erwin Huebner, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada.

Natural Diasters: Hurricanes, Fires, Earthquakes and Rats!

roof-rat-on-lightMembers of the Muridae family are the dominant species in every region of the world, due to their ability to adapt to and exploit new situations. Commensal rats and mice, those that live at the expense of humans, invade their dwellings, eat their food, upset their comfort, and frequently transmit diseases to them, belong to this family. Three species of commensal rodents are the most widely distributed: the Norway Rat, Rattus norvegicus; the Roof rat, Rattus rattus; and the Common (House)  mouse, Mus musculus.

When natural disasters strike, rats and mice experience the same suffering as humans. Many of them are crushed to death or drowned, die of starvation, or fall prey to infections. Their populations are frequently decimated. Survivors, fearful and disorganized, wander into new areas in search of protection, shelter, and food. It taRat yellingkes time for them to regroup and reorganize their social behavior, become familiar with their new environment, find safe havens, locate food and water, and memorize their movements. All this occurs before they can again begin reproducing.

Colony building and reproduction will only begin when their new ecosystem has stabilized. This typically takes 6 to 10 months under favorable conditions. As the rodent population grows and resettles, people have a greater chance of being exposed to the diseases carried by rodents. Rodent urine and dander also contain allergens that can cause allergic reactions or trigger asthma symptoms in sensitive persons and more than 9,000 persons are treated in emergency departments annually for rat or mouse bites

rat-biting-girl-clipartFACT: Some rats, if provoked and cornered, will fight their way out of a confrontation, as will many wild animals. But most rats and mice do not directly attack humans. Young babies, bed-confined elders, and the homeless sleeping in doorways and alleys, however, are occasionally bitten by unprovoked rats.  In some cases, those cleaning up debris after natural disasters will come in contact with frightened rats (mice) and may experience bites. 

So even with immediately decreasing populations, rats are perceived to be increasing because they gravitate to the same areas as humans and become more prevalent and  evident in those environs.

Why are rodent populations, and their movements, so important after disastediaster-damagers? Because events like Hurricane Irma and Jose, the fires in our great northwest, tornados in the midwest and the earthquakes in the U.S. and Mexico, can change the ecology of affected areas, making it more favorable to rats and other vermin. At the same time, they can curtail community services that can keep these  pests in check.

For more information on Rats and Mice and the illnesses they cause and the diseases they carry, check out this link:  https://www.cdc.gov/rodents/diseases/index.html

Need to know how to get rid of Rats and Mice? Check out this website: https://www.corkyspest.com/rats.html